EDITORIAL: KernTax Misguided on Paramedic Issue

Read ‘Outrage’ is Response to Letter on Paramedics

In a letter sent to Pine Mountain residents last week, Michael Turnipseed, current director of the private KernTax group, has attempted to dumb down Measure K to confuse voters. The firefighter paramedic issue will be on the November 4 ballot.

Turnipseed complains that property owners with assessed values of $140,000 would pay the same $70 per year as those with assessed values of $750,000. Those who live in Pine Mountain all know that in a medical emergency, firefighter paramedics do not arrive within eight minutes to save a $140,000 property or a $750,000 property. They arrive to save a human life.

The KernTax director fails to mention that Hall Ambulance Service is unable to reach Pine Mountain for over an hour at times. At other times they cannot get there at all. Turnipseed offers no acknowledgement that human lives are even a factor in the debate. Why? Because if he raises that fact he loses the argument.

Turnipseed’s attempt to wave the “taxation without representation” flag is also a debater’s tactic to agitate rather than to inform. The truth is that any property owner who wishes to vote in this election is perfectly free to do so.

All they have to do is register to vote in the Pine Mountain CSA-40 area. Why? Because state law requires that property owners be given a chance to vote on a proposed property assessment for services. You have until October 20 to register to vote here on November 4.

Over the years, KernTax has offered some opinions worthy of serious consideration, but the current director’s view of emergency medical needs in Pine Mountain are uninformed and self-serving.

Mr. Turnipseed lives in Bakersfield. He does not face the life or death danger that confronts the people of Pine Mountain when the Advanced Life Support aid of a paramedic’s skills, equipment and medicine could save a victims heart and brain while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Waiting sometimes over an hour for paramedic care, while firefighters and family members watch someone suffer or die, is unacceptable.

At Kern County Supervisor’s meetings, Mr. Turnipseed has stood to defend the near-monopoly that Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall’s private ambulance company holds over emergency medical services in Kern County. KernTax says an all-private system is preferable, although Kern County (with the 10th largest fire department in the state) is the only one in the top fifteen departments in the state without firefighter paramedics to aid rural residents in emergencies.

Turnipseed does not mention the Kern County Grand Jury’s report saying public safety demands that a 24/7 paramedic be on duty in Pine Mountain.

He complains that the community’s CSA-40 fund holds $500,000 in reserve funds, thereby suggesting that the measure for paramedic funding should not be passed. He fails to note that the community conducted its own survey in 2006. The urgent desire clearly expressed in that survey was for ongoing paramedic services—not for only the 30 months that would be covered by emptying the community’s reserve.

Finally, Turnipseed stretches too far in his attempt to cause fear in voters’ minds when he says, “…the parcel tax can double in a short period of time.”

Kern County Fire Captain Steve Pendergrass, who developed the program, said he could see no need to increase the rate for “a very, very long time.”

But even if the Board of Supervisors were to vote every year to increase the parcel tax to the maximum allowed by law (five percent), it would take 14 years for the $70 tax to become $138

Compare that with the $125 a year tax Hall Ambulance said it wanted in 2007 to provide local service, plus free rent in a facility built by ransacking the CSA-40 reserves. Pine Mountain residents said “no thanks.”

We believe it is a bad idea to take community tax advice from someone who clearly does not understand, or care about, local community needs, someone who stretches facts to make a point— which coincidentally benefits a private ambulance company owner and big city mayor.

Nineteen cents a day is a very small cost for seeing loved ones and friends receive proper emergency medical care when needed. We believe a “Yes” vote for Measure K on the November ballot is a smart investment by Pine Mountain voters to provide necessary services to the remote mountain community.

This is part of the October 10, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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